The long hours being worked by farmers during harvest and the build up of dust in machines from such heavy use is resulting in fires on farms, says a county fire service.

Dorset & Wiltshire Fire and Rescue Service is reminding farmers of the importance of keeping up cleaning and maintenance schedules during the harvest period.

Every year, the service is called to deal with numerous fires involving farm machinery, hay bales, fields and barns.

Group manager Graham Kewley said: “As the harvest goes on, farmers are working long, hard hours and it’s easy to let chaff and dust build up in the machines, which can then catch fire if parts of the combine then overheat.

“The problem is compounded when machinery is worked extra hard between periods of inclement weather, or when crops are harvested and stored in less than ideal conditions.

Baling hay that is damp can create a real fire hazard, as this can lead to heat build-up and eventual self-combustion within the bale.”

The service is also reminding farmers of the requirement to carry out a fire risk assessment for their buildings.

Part of this process should identify access and water supplies to assist firefighters and the location of hazards such as cylinders, fertilisers and flammable liquids.

GM Kewley said: “We also encourage farmers to have a farm emergency plan – this can save vital minutes in the event of an incident, and will help firefighters to deal with a fire more quickly and more safely.”

NFU Mutual has produced a safety checklist for farmers to help prevent combine fires and accidents during harvest:

  • Regularly clean out dust and chaff from hot spots in combines and balers
  • Switch off engines and ensure moving parts have stopped before clearing blockages or carrying out maintenance
  • Always stop to investigate hot-running engines or bearings
  • Put in place a system for keeping in contact with lone workers
  • Keep mobile phones on your person – not left in a tractor or pick up cab
  • Make sure that drivers are aware of the locations and heights of power lines and check that machines will safely pass under wires
  • Make sure there is a fire extinguisher on the combine – and that it is regularly maintained
  • Clean dust regularly from grain dryers – and ensure that all staff running the drier are fully trained and know what to do if fire breaks out
  • Ensure that fire extinguishers are readily accessible
  • Make sure ladders and platforms used for maintenance are in good condition and a safe system of work is in operation

Further information can be found at